Welcome Scribbler horror fans! I had been waiting to see this one since I first heard about it. I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith since I saw Clerks so when I heard he was giving horror a try I couldn’t wait to see his approach. So let’s take a look at…
Kevin Smith did a horror movie! If there’s one thing that Kevin Smith films do with consistency, maybe more than any other director, it’s that they give you something to think about and discuss afterwards. His last film (well actually his last was Cop Out but I haven't seen that one) Red State was his first venture into a darker world and like all of his other films gave you plenty to think about after viewing it. If you haven’t seen that one give it a shot, it’s essentially Smith’s take on the Fred Phelps Cult otherwise known as the Westboro Baptist Church (ya know the “God Hates Fags” idiots that protest well… everywhere). That was Smith’s first try at darker drama and for the most part he did it very well. So how was his first venture into our world, the world of horror?
They say to write what you know so Smith does just that in Tusk as this is essentially the tale of Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) a failed stand-up comic who found popularity as a vicious podcaster making fun of people in viral videos (they put Tosh.0 to shame) with his partner Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment, you remember… the Sixth Sense kid!). When they make fun of the “Kill Bill kid”, famous for severing his leg with a sword, Wallace decides to go to Canada to interview the kid only to find the “Kill Bill kid” committed suicide when he gets there. Distraught not for the tragic suicide but because he came all the way to Canada for nothing, Wallace comes across a handbill in a bar bathroom that just might salvage the trip. It’s an offer of a free room and a “lifetime” of interesting stories. His interest piqued Wallace heads to the middle of nowhere (yes, even for Canada LOL) in order to save the day.
Wallace pulls up to a mansion in the middle of nowhere a couple hours north of Manitoba where he finds quite an interesting old man in a wheelchair. The mansion is owned by Howard Howe (Michael Parks who played the Fred Phelps character in Smith’s Red State) who turns out to be a very eccentric elderly man with many interesting stories to tell. He first catches Wallace’s attention by telling him he not only met Ernest Hemingway but served with “Ernie” for a time during the war. Howe offers Wallace some tea while they talk and this is a horror movie so you know that tea is laced and this is going to end badly for Wallace. However, Wallace is kind of a jerk who has let success go to his head so at first you don’t really feel bad for him. Smith tries to build some sympathy but at least for me it never quite works. What happens is quite f’d up but I never found myself feeling bad for Wallace in the slightest.
Anyway back to the tale… I won’t spoil this one since it’s fairly new and few have seen it but I will say if you’re a fan of Human Centipede (a Feind favorite btw) you’ll recognize some parts of this one. As Wallace sips (laced) tea Howard tells him some about serving with Hemingway then about what happened to him out at sea. Howard’s ship sank and while his shipmates drowned or were eaten by sharks he managed to escape finally making it to a rocky shore. Once there Howard found he wasn’t alone, there was a walrus on the rocks who didn’t attack him but rather covered him to keep him warm and alive. The walrus became his friend and he named him Tusk. By the end of Howard’s tale Wallace is finally fully drugged and collapses to the floor like a sack of potatoes.
When Wallace finally wakes up, drooling all over himself, Howard spins the yarn that Wallace was bitten by a brown recluse spider which caused a “doctor” to have to amputate Wallace’s leg to prevent the poison from spreading. This begins Wallace’s nightmare which only gets worse. He is able to sneak a phone call to his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) but only gets voice mail, the same as when he calls his friend/partner Teddy. They are having an affair unbeknownst to Wallace. When the pair get Wallace’s messages the next morning the search for him begins. The couple head to Canada to try to find Wallace.
Ally and Teddy are given the name of an ex-cop/detective that may be able to help them on their search. Enter Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) an alcoholic ex-cop from Quebec who lost his job, he claims, due to his insistence that there was a serial killer on the loose in Canada. Lapointe claims no one believes him that some bodies (a dozen) that have been found are all the victims of one man. Lapointe tells Ally & Teddy how he thinks he mistakenly met and dismissed the killer as a nobody while he was working the case of a local hockey star whose body had been found disfigured. He tells them all the bodies have one distinguishing feature which no one can figure out, they all have two large holes in the upper jaw.
I won’t spoil any of the “big” surprises of Tusk as you should really seek it out and experience it for yourself. All I’ll say further is that Ally, Teddy and Detective Lapointe are finally able to track down the Howard Howe mansion where Wallace was headed, arriving, of course, just in time for the battle between Wallace and Howard. They are shocked and probably more than a little disgusted by what they find when they finally see Wallace. The ending itself is incredibly fucked up and should give everyone something to talk about afterwards as Kevin Smith films tend to do.
Now for the final verdict, how was Kevin Smith’s first foray into horror? Honestly, I have to say while I did very much enjoy the film it didn’t go dark enough for me. This could have been one completely terrifying experience on par with the aforementioned Human Centipede whose creepy/disgusting factor is off the charts but Smith doesn’t go dark and stay dark. The first several scenes between Howard (Parks) and Wallace (Long) start out dark and eerie which set a great horror tone and are worth watching the film for all by themselves but that tone isn’t maintained through the rest of the film. I know Smith comes from a comedic background and this film could have been an awesome horror-com in the vein of Scribbler favorites Tucker & Dale Vs Evil, Fresh Meat or Housebound but it starts as a grim, eerie horror film then loses that tone when the search for Wallace begins. I’m a huge Johnny Depp fan but once again here he plays a quirky, odd character in Det. Lapointe which is an awesome character, don’t get me wrong, but it lightens and changes the mood and tone of the film. In other words it seems out of place. While I highly recommend Tusk I’m a bit sad that Smith chose not to go full horror because Tusk started that way then turned more light-hearted in the second half of the film. If the dark tone that started the film was maintained this could have been a horror film mentioned in conversations with the greats like The Exocist. Alas, while it was still a good movie that should have you talking afterwards it fails to be great so I sincerely hope Smith taps his inner demons and tries again. The Scribbler Clock Test was definitely passed and Tusk despite a few flaws, is absolutely…
Sure you're all expecting Fleetwood Mac here but ummm... NO!
Have you seen this sincerely disturbing Kevin Smith foray into horror yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Scribbler Movie Reviews
Feind loves watching movies of all kinds so if we watch it, we tell whether you should as well. I'll share mostly horror but I also enjoy everything from big Blockbusters to micro-budget Independent films.
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